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A Matrimonial in Maryland

Monday, April 4, 2011

My dissertation begins with the 1860s (actually 1850s a little) so I didn't spend much time doing research in the preceding decades.  A girl has to start somewhere, and for a variety of reasons that aren't very interesting, this is where I chose to begin.  So, every now and then, I like to look back at older ads to see if they were much different than ones from later decades and the answer, interestingly enough, is: not really.

Take this little gem from 1840:

Matrimony. -- The advertiser (lately arrived from the South,) being unconnected with society here, is induced to seek a matrimonial engagement through the medium of a public journal.  As the advertiser is in earnest, so will he be brief in explaining his wishes - his age is 27, of good family, moderae income, musical, fond of literature, and considered by his acquaintance of engaging manners and appearance, early habits have induced moral rectitude and religious observance.  Any lady possessing accomplishments calculated to render the advertiser happy by an union is sought for.  Money is no farther an object than as it conduces to domestic happiness.  All communications will be considered strictly confidential.  Address F.T.W. office of the Sun.  j18-2t*

It's not too surprising to me that this ad closely resembles ones from, say, 15 or even 20 years later.  But what about 30 or 40 years later?  For example, these two ads were printed in 1879 and 1880, and while the men themselves don't sound a whole lot alike, is there anything strikingly different in their use of language, style, etc, that reveals the 40 year gap?  How much in the world has changed in this time!  I just can't imagine that a personal from 1971 would really resemble a personal from today as much as these two ads resemble each other.

As for the ad itself, I really like F.T.W.  He sounds charming.  Everything about this ad just breathes sincerity.  He's honest about his circumstances (moderate income) but not looking for a rich wife (not that he'd turn down a little extra cash if she has some).  He's got an "engaging" personality and appearance, he's musical, he's literary, and he's moral.  Granted, he seems slightly more concerned about whether or not his wife can make him happy than the other way around, but I guess that he describes his qualities implies that he recognizes that he must be able to satisfy his wife's needs as well.  So I will give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.  Hope you found what you were looking for, F.T.W.!  I bet you made a really great husband.

©2011 Pam Epstein


Anonymous April 9, 2011 at 11:05 AM  

I like that "his early habits have induced moral rectitude and religious observance." At other times, religion could be seen differently, as what induces moral rectitude in he whose early habits were dubious--a reedemed musical boy looking for his girl.

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